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In the epic-legend of Rama-katha, Jatayu, the legendary Great Bird, intercepts Ravana when he sees him abducting Sita and grievously injures him before he is able to overpower Jatayu, but in the painting, the episode turns into a real drama with more food for eyes. The struggle has been far more intensified and the landscape, strewn with dismembered limbs of the Great Bird and slashed pieces of chariot and the horses and the charioteer driving it, looks more like a battle-field and is obviously far better managed. Jatayu emerges more powerful, slashing to pieces Ravana's chariot, slaying his demon-charioteer and slinging his horses to fall and collapse. He forces the mighty Ravana, capable of shaking Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva, to walk, whether on earth or in space, on foot, unattended and unaided. In the legend, Ravana was endowed with mystic powers to call for as many chariots as he desired, but in artist's world he has no substitute and is forced to plod his way by himself. Jatayu's body size has been elevated to equal the size of ten headed Ravana and Ravana had to equip all his twenty arms with various fatal weapons before he was able to overpower Jatayu. The artist has laid his battle on land instead the conventionally acclaimed space, for by so setting his stage alone he could evoke viewers' interest in his landscape. The ocean beyond, turned red, reflects the mood of the occasion and the creatures of sky, represented by a lone bird, and of earth, represented by a group of monkeys, bear witness to the entire drama. The visual representation of the episode required Ravana to hold Sita in arms but to minimise its visual effect and to maintain grace, the artist considered it better not to let Sita's feminineness come in prominence. He has, hence, clad both Sita and Ravana in the same colour with a result that that part of the episode is largely submerged, though to reveal her identity he has rendered her long skirt in a different hue.
The abduction of Sita is the turning point of Rama-katha. After Rama, Sita and Lakshmana have settled at Panchavati, in Dandakaranya, Ravana's sister Surpanakha happens to pass across their cottage. She perceives Rama and tempted by his manly beauty proposes to marry but Rama declines and sends her to his brother Lakshmana who, according to him, was without a wife. Lakshmana turns her back to Rama saying that he is only an humble servant and to marry her could only be the right of the master. She is likewise tossed from here to there. This infuriates her. As a result, by her evil powers, she transforms herself into a ferocious demoness and frightens Sita. To relieve Sita from her fear Lakshmana dissects Surpanakha's nose.
With her bleeding nose, Surpanakha goes to her brother Ravana and provokes him to avenge Rama and his brother. Ravana was not unaware of Rama's mystic powers. He hence decides to abduct his wife Sita by feigning as mendicant. He sends Maricha to take Rama away into forest and call Lakshmana thereafter for help. Maricha does as instructed. Meanwhile, Ravana, feigning as a spiritual man, abducts Sita. Jatayu confronts Ravana but gets slain. Sita drops from sky some of her jewels and torn cloth, so that Rama, on discovering them, may discover which way she has been taken. Such jewels reach the hands of a group of monkeys. When Rama and Lakshmana reach Kishkindha in search of Sita and meet the monkey king Sugriva and his lieutenant Hanuman, these monkeys give to Rama Sita's jewels and pieces of cloth.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.